India needs big wins in next two games

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HEART-BREAKING:Disappointed fans watching the India-Spain match on Thursday.
HEART-BREAKING:Disappointed fans watching the India-Spain match on Thursday.

S. Thyagarajan

Brasa speaks about the compulsions to play Deepak Thakur

New Delhi: What next? Is India still in the race? Such posers are pure rhetoric. They are invoked to keep the interest alive in the current Hero Honda hockey World Cup.

The 2-5 reverse against Spain on Thursday mirrored the chasm dividing Asia and Europe in approach, athleticism and adeptness.

England produced a classic display in a tough contest against Pakistan. The former European champion, Spain, peaked at the right time to expose India's inadequacies.

Arguments over theoretical possibilities of a semifinal berth are academic. At best they satisfy a dream. For that to happen India needs to win the next two matches against England and South Africa by big margins. You have to be an inveterate optimist to engage in such a line of thinking.

Practical assessment

Jose Brasa is practical in his post-match assessment. The best now is to strive and be in the race for the fifth spot. That would be a great achievement considering the 11th position in the last edition.

Brasa spoke about the compulsions to play Deepak Thakur. That India had to play a centre-forward who hardly touched the ball is pathetic. Danish Mujtaba could have been given a trial as Brasa did for Sreejesh.

India's failure was self-inflicted. There were chances galore. Equally, there were times when a little more care could have been exercised in marking the rival attackers, especially known strikers like Pol Amat and Pau Quemada.

Then, lack of variation in penalty corners. Of the seven, India converted one. Thundering hits at the goalkeeper always do not produce the desired result.

A certain amount of guile needs to be blended in to surprise the custodian.

What let India down was the inability to comprehend the strengths and weaknesses of the opponent. After all, no team is perfect. They have to be identified and conquered with ingenuous means.

Brasa talks of inexperience. But more than half the side has won 100 international caps.

Crying over spilt milk or reiterating known deficiencies for decades is no remedy. The team needs to tighten up areas where it is strong, improve qualitatively the work in the defence zones.

England is at its peak. The defeat of the Aussies and the classic goals against Pakistan showed England can be tipped for the title.

As the European champion, it is entitled to think in terms of a dawn as World champion.

India's record against England is marginally better. Of the 23 played, the home team has 10 victories, seven defeats and six draws.

In the World Cup, it has three wins, two defeats and one draw. Such figures reflect nothing in the present scenario.

England is not at its full strength. Two of the best, Matt Daly and Simon Mantell, could not come because of injuries.

Loss of key player

The loss of the key player, Richard Mantell, after the tempestuous tie against Pakistan on Thursday leaves a dent.

How much can India exploit with Shivendra back is the question.

A draw would be a splendid result.

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